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Did you freak out the first time you had to cook Thanksgiving dinner? Where do I go to learn how to do this?

I’m no stranger to the kitchen.
I can make many meals from scratch, all of which my husband thoroughly enjoys. I also love to bake and do it often.

However, even though I’ve been cooking for him a long time, I’ve never had to make a holiday meal for him before.
Usually Thanksgiving or Christmas mean that we go to a relatives’ house and enjoy a meal there. We can’t do that this year because he’s in the military and we are currently based 20 hours away from the closest relative. Of course, usually we could take leave and go visit for the holidays however I’m currently 7 months pregnant and my OB has advised against traveling. So that’s not going to happen.

So this will be my first year making Thanksgiving dinner for my husband and myself. I’m very excited to finally be able to take the torch and lead the holiday festivities in our home, however at the same time I’m nervous because I’ve never cooked a turkey before, much less planned an entire Thanksgiving meal.

I can’t call my mom or an aunt to ask for advice (not really close with anyone in my family…another reason I’m excited to be cooking Thanksgiving dinner myself this year is so we don’t have to see them).
So where do I start?
Is there a place I could go online? some articles or books I could read to help give a first timer some tips when planning holiday meals?

I don’t expect perfection from myself however I would like to take this opportunity the first year to show my husband (as well as myself) that I can do well at hosting family holidays. Especially since we are pregnant and I was hoping to gain a little experience before the kids were old enough to remember the holidays.

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8 Responses to “Did you freak out the first time you had to cook Thanksgiving dinner? Where do I go to learn how to do this?”

  1. Miss Kitty said :
  2. Huba said : will answer all your questions. A turkey is very easy to cook but also easy to mess up if you ignore the directions and try to experiment too much. For me, the hardest part is the timing so everything comes to the table hot. Try to do as much as you can the day before. Be sure to thaw the turkey many days in advance or buy one that is not frozen. You can get by with a 10 – 12 pound one if there are just two of you and still have lots of leftovers.

    Have a Happy thanksgiving (we’re having a potluck of different soups!)

  3. tmuthaliph said :
  4. Ana Thema said :

    Don’t sweat it. Butterball turkey will answer all your questions online, via email, or even walk you through it on the phone at their 800 #. You won’t screw up. Cooking a turkey is totally easy. Happy Thanksgiving.

  5. Dottie R said :

    Taste of Home, Food Network and Better Homes & Gardens ( all have special videos put together for Thanksgiving dinner planning, etc.

    If it’s only going to be 2 or 4 of you, you may want to consider getting a half turkey breast rather than the whole bird. But you can always freeze the leftover turkey for later use. Butterball has a good website also.

    Enjoy your first Thanksgiving at home and good luck with the birth of your child!

  6. Julia S said :

    Just pace yourself. Be sure the turkey is in the fridge defrosting far enough in advance. Finish your shopping two days in advance. Do your dessert the day before. If you make your own cranberry sauce, make it a day or two ahead as well. Just put it in a sealed container in the fridge. Set the table the night before. Line up all the things you’ll need for each step before you begin it. Clean up after each step as soon as the item is in the oven or otherwise done with its hands-on time.

    Base your cooking schedule around the turkey. I don’t know how big your bird is, but you want it to come out of the oven about thirty minutes before you eat. (Partly so you have some buffer if it needs longer, partly because it needs to rest, partly so you can make the gravy.)

    If you make giblet gravy, start that as you’re preparing the turkey. Set the giblets aside in their little bag. Prepare the turkey for baking, put it in the pan, then put it in the oven.

    Toss the giblets into a saucepan with water and the other flavorings, bring it to a boil on the back burner, then bring it down to a low simmer and cover it. Leave it there.

    I’d suggest a small glass of sherry, but you’re pregnant. Have some cherry soda. Wash your hands, the cutting board, etc. Get the hors d’oevres ready if you’re serving them.

    Get your veggies done and keep them warm. Half an hour before the turkey’s done, start your mashed potatoes. (I mean start peeling and boiling the water.) Save some of the potato water. Save some of the carrot water if you’re having plain steamed carrots.

    Once the turkey is done, pour out all of the juices from the cavity. Check to make sure they aren’t pink. If they are, in it goes for awhile longer. Put it on a platter (if you’ll be carving at the table) or cutting board (if you’ll be carving in the kitchen) and leave it to rest. Keep away from the edge of the countertop and your elbows. Turn the oven off and put all of your side dishes in to stay warm. (Make sure your dishes are ovenproof.

    Start on the gravy. If your roasting pan is heavy and good-quality (not the one you got with the oven), you can just make your gravy in it. Start bubbling the pan juices over high. Drain your giblet broth into a jug or measuring cup and throw away the giblets (unless you like the bits in your gravy). Make the gravy. Pour the juices that have drained from the turkey into the pan, bring it back to a boil.

    Bring the food to the table. Bask in the admiration.

  7. Olivia W said :

    My first holiday, I was about 20 – washing dishes that morning and cut my hand on a glass. Ended up in the ER with 15 stitches in my little finger, a huge bandage, and a sling. That’s how we started!! I wasn’t even allowed to touch the turkey because of possible infection. Had to wear a plastic bag over my hand to keep the bandage clean and dry. LOL now but it wasn’t funny at the time.

    Anyway, my suggestion for the first time is not to try to do too much. Many of the side dishes can be purchased from your local supermarket deli. All you have to do is reheat. They also have gravy. Then, you can pick out one or two dishes, such as the turkey and the dressing, or the turkey and the cranberry sauce, and make those yourself. Once you are confident about those one or two things, then you can add more next year. If you have Von’s or Safeway near you, they have a great booklet with all the timing and everything you need.

    Or, a lot of supermarkets will sell you the whole meal already done for about $40 and all you have to do is reheat and relax. By the way, after 40 years of doing holidays, you do NOT know how to carve (even if you do). Your husband will be thrilled to do his husbandly duty, and he needs to practice too so that he can do it in front of people in the years to come. Remember, plead ignorance. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

  8. C. Burton said :

    I know exactly how you feel because I am in the exact same situation.
    But try checking out
    also… your local grocery store might have recipes for a Thanksgiving turkey, or even the deli might have a thanksgiving dinner package (but I don’t think those are that great).
    And then if all else fails, it never hurts to ask a family member for advice (I always ask my parents or grandparents for recipes and advice/help on cooking things)


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